The Racing Gods Don’t Always Smile on the Seemingly Deserving, but Being Consistent Helps
By David Phillips
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Take all five classes in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, turn them loose on four of the most historic and challenging miles of racetrack in North America amid changing conditions with championship implications riding on the outcome, and what do you get? Two hours and 40 minutes of action-packed sports car racing otherwise known as the 2022 IMSA Fastlane SportsCar Weekend at Road America.
What did we learn?
Nobody Ever Claimed Racing Is Fair
If they did, they were wrong. That maxim was proven for the zillionth time on Sunday when JDC-Miller MotorSports’ gamble of switching the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi-V.R to rain tires during an early full-course yellow paid off big time. Initially.
While the other five Daytona Prototype international (DPi) competitors tiptoed around a track that was alternately wet and damp on the slick tires with which they started the race, surefooted Richard Westbrook stormed into a huge lead on his grooved Michelins. Such was his pace that Westbrook was within sight of lapping the sixth-place DPi car when a full-course yellow was declared to clear a chunk of debris from the circuit.
Following the resulting pit stop shuffles and repositioning of the field by class, Westbrook’s three-plus-mile advantage evaporated as all six DPi cars were positioned nose-to-tail for the subsequent restart. With the JDC-Miller inspired gamble effectively nullified, Tristan Vautier spent the remainder of the race battling for position in a race he and Westbrook might well have easily won by putting a lap on the DPi field barring that full-course caution – a yellow caused when the sister (or is that cousin?) car, the No. 90 JDC-Miller Duqueine D08 Le Mans Prototype 3 entry, lost a chunk of its bodywork.
Racing fair? No. Ironic? Certainly.
Yin and Yang of Consistency
The yin and yang of consistency was much in evidence at Road America. After capturing the 2022 Rolex 24 At Daytona, Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian has experienced a “so near yet so far” season, the No. 60 Acura ARX-05 consistently in the hunt for another win but just as regularly falling just short.
Thus, the No. 60 arrived at Road America with a string of five consecutive runner-up finishes. The regular collection of points enabled Meyer Shank to fashion a lead in the DPi standings that was at once substantial and fragile. Substantial enough that a win in Wisconsin would have built a comfortable championship lead heading to the Motul Petit Le Mans season finale; fragile enough that a lackluster finish coupled with a win by the chief rival No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura would force a must-win position in the season finale.
The late stages at Road America once again found the No. 60 Acura in the lead, with Oliver Jarvis battling to stay just ahead of Filipe Albuquerque in the No. 10. Not for the first time this year, Albuquerque pulled off a forceful – but clean – pass for the lead and went on to take the win. Meanwhile, under intense pressure from Earl Bamber in the No. 02 Cadillac Racing DPi V.R, Jarvis crashed in the Kink and was fortunate indeed that the resulting full-course yellow enabled him to nurse his badly damaged car to a fourth-place finish.
Thus, the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura now heads to Motul Petit Le Mans with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, putting MSR in that must-win situation.
Speaking of Consistency …
Stevan McAleer and Mike Skeen steered the No. 32 Team Korthoff Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3 to an eighth-place GT Daytona (GTD) finish Sunday, keeping McAleer and the No. 32 atop the GTD driver and team standings. After opening the season with third- and-second place finishes, respectively, at the Rolex 24 and Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts, the Korthoff Mercedes has not scored another podium finish. On the other hand, Road America was just the second time this season that the No. 32 Mercedes finished outside the top six.
While some other GTD campaigners have experienced higher “highs,” they’ve also experienced more “lows.” With races at VIRginia International Raceway and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta remaining on the schedule, that consistency finds McAleer and Team Korthoff 36 points clear of Ryan Hardwick, Jan Heylen and the No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche GT3 R, with three other teams within striking distance of the championship.